Congressional Republicans Block Marijuana And Drug Policy Reforms In DC

Congressional Republicans Block Marijuana And Drug Policy Reforms In DC

A powerful congressional subcommittee approved legislation this week that would continue preventing the city of Washington, D.C. from moving to broaden its current marijuana legalization law. The bill would also add a new restriction on the use of funds to support opening safe consumption facilities where people could consume illegal drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.

The provisions, contained in Fiscal Year 2019 funding legislation approved on Thursday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government continue a long tradition of Republican-controlled Congresses interfering in the ability of officials in the nation’s capital to set local cannabis and drug policies.

The marijuana provision, which continues current law, reads:

SEC. 809. (a) None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.

(b) No funds available for obligation or expenditure by the District of Columbia government under any authority may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative for recreational purposes.

D.C. voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize low-level marijuana possession and limited homegrow of cannabis plants in 2014. But despite City Council support for building on that measure with a system of legal, taxed and regulated marijuana production and retail sales, the District hasn’t been able to move forward with those plans because of the ongoing congressional prohibition.

Separately, the House subcommittee’s bill, which is expected to go before the full Appropriations Committee next month, would ban the use of federal funds to support safe consumption facilities for illegal drug users.

SEC. 807. None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to distribute any needle or syringe for the purpose of preventing the spread of blood borne pathogens in any location that has been determined by the local public health or local law enforcement authorities to be inappropriate for such distribution, or used for the operation of a supervised drug consumption facility that permits the consumption of any substance listed in Schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) onsite.

The ban on the use of funds for certain needle or syringe exchange programs in the provision has been law for years, but the clause about supervised drug consumption sites is new.

While no such aboveground site yet exists in the U.S., the addition of the new funding prohibition language comes as public health advocates and officials in a number of states across the country are endorsing the idea.

As the New York Times editorial board recently wrote, “Seattle and San Francisco are both on track to open sites, and Philadelphia recently approved the idea as well. Boston, Ithaca and New York City are considering their own facilities.”

Whereas the ban on further marijuana legalization in D.C. applies to both the use of federal funds and those raised locally by the District, the safe consumption site ban only covers federal funds. So D.C. would presumably still be able to use local tax dollars to pay for the facilities.

But the funding issue aside, the mere legality of the proposed sites, which are sometimes called safe injection facilities (SIFs), is itself in question.

Vermont’s U.S. attorney, for example, said in a statement last year that such sites would send the “wrong message to children in Vermont: the government will help you use heroin.” He further wrote:

“Of equal importance, the proposed SIFs would violate several federal criminal laws, including those prohibiting use of narcotics and maintaining a premises for the purpose of narcotics use. It is a crime, not only to use illicit narcotics, but to manage and maintain sites on which such drugs are used and distributed. Thus, exposure to criminal charges would arise for users and SIF workers and overseers. The properties that host SIFs would also be subject to federal forfeiture.”

Advocates, on the other hand, say the facilities save lives by making sure drug consumers can receive medical attention from on-site personnel in the event of overdoses.

A study of a safe injection site operating in Vancouver, Canada found that overdose deaths dropped much more sharply in the neighborhood surrounding the facility as compared to the rest of the city.

A press release from the office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) mentioned the marijuana provision in the new funding bill but was silent on the drug consumption site language.

Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Congressional Republicans Block Marijuana And Drug Policy Reforms In DC

United Nations Begins Drug Policy Review

United Nations Begins Drug Policy Review

After legislation drafted by America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, became law in 1937, a global wave of prohibition was launched. This included the United Nations, through which several global treaties outlawing marijuana are still in force today.

As an increasing number of states begin legalizing marijuana and even allowing regulated and taxed sales, the United States finds itself in a precarious and highly ironic situation: It is, technically speaking, violating the very international laws and treaties it originally encouraged.

All this may change, however — at least within the United Nations. According to Tom Angell, a prominent marijuana legalization advocate and founder of Marijuana Majority:

The United Nations is kicking off the first comprehensive review of global drug policies in nearly two decades this week, and a broad coalition of organizations is calling on the body to respect countries that legalize marijuana and enact other drug policy reforms.

This coalition, comprised of 100 organizations, is asking the U.N. to appoint a “Committee of Experts” to consider treaty reform. The Jamaican minister of justice, Mark Golding, made this proposal Thursday morning in New York.

The group, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, is hoping to convince the U.N. to update its global drug policies with a sensitivity toward nations that have chosen to end prohibition and instead regulate drugs like cannabis.

“The administration’s call to respect countries’ right to try regulation rather than prohibition is a positive step for drug policy, as are other reforms the US has sought internationally.”

Said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org. He continued,

“It doesn’t make sense to oppose having a discussion within the U.N. about modernizing the treaties.”

In a statement, Borden also explained, “Minister Golding’s call for an Committee of Experts on drug treaty reform is a bold and historic step forward for global drug policy. Defenders of the status quo can no longer paint the idea of regulating and controlling drugs, as opposed to prohibiting them, as against the will of the international community or lacking political support. Now it’s time for governments including that of the US to step up and do all they can to make the global drug policy system more humane and more respectful of human rights.”

The wave of medical and recreational cannabis legalization throughout the world isn’t the only reason for the group’s action. Ending the violence and corruption in Latin America, epitomized by brutal drug cartel terrorism in Mexico, is also a central focus of this effort.

The April execution by firing squad of eight drug smugglers in Indonesia, which prompted international outrage, is a recent and glaring example of the need for international reforms that keep pace with not only global marijuana legalization, but also basic human rights.

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